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Association Data Management Challenges

Lori Halley 06 September 2011 0 comments

Wes Trochlil (EDM), data management guru, has just published the results of his yearly survey of association executives: What's Plaguing Associations - 2011.  While admittedly not a scientific study, this survey asks one simple, but all-important question:

“What data management/database issue are you being challenged with right now?”

Of course as providers of integrated Association Management Software, we were keen to find out the key data management challenges facing associations. And we thought our blog readers would also find it interesting.

Survey Results:

After receiving responses from close to 150 respondents, Wes took all of the qualitative responses and categorized them into the following topic areas and ranked these in terms of percentage of response:

  • Integration (web and third parties) – 27%
  • Strategic management – 22%
  • Data integrity – 14%
  • Reporting/querying – 11%
  • Selection and implementation – 7%
  • Vendor issues – 6%
  • Other issues – 13%

Top 2 Issues: Database Integration and Strategic Management

After reviewing the survey response, Wes suggests that the two top issues – database integration and strategic management – are “signs of the maturing of the AMS market and its users.  Associations are recognizing the need for integration and realizing the importance of data management in addressing organizational goals." He noted that even five years ago, associations' key issues were related to functional needs, whereas today they’re looking for ways of using their systems more effectively."

Our Take On The Survey Results

Always keen on hearing what associations and member-based organizations have to say,  I asked our Chief Apricot (Dmitri Buterin) to comment on the key survey findings, and here are his thoughts:

Issue #1: Integration (web and third parties) – 27%:

I'm not surprised that integration is a key issue for associations right now.  It correlates well with my own observations from interacting with Wild Apricot clients/prospective clients - and I think this is the main driver behind growth in web-based AMS's. It is much harder to integrate a website with some locally installed software than with a web-based AMS. Also, in our experience dealing with mostly small associations, we've seen first-hand that technical implementation of such integration is a big challenge for most of them. In our case this means that we invest more time for now into an out-of-the-box integrated solution - with clients using a Wild Apricot website as well as WA member database, event registration etc., rather than providing more advanced tools to integrate the WA system with other websites. 

I see that one of the "representative comments"  suggests there remain challenges around "consolidating multiple databases and getting the db managers working together."  Unfortunately, I do not see this changing that much in the next 5-10 years, since the issue of synchronizing two databases requires very complex technological solutions.

Issue #2: Strategic management – 22%:

In terms of the challenges around “strategic management”  (e.g., staying abreast of changes in technology and better managing the data to address the organization’s objectives), this has been our gut feel as well and I am happy to see objective confirmation of this. In fact,  it aligns with a new initiative that Wild Apricot will be launching this Fall -- our Membership Knowledge Hub -- basically, this will be a  resource library focused on more strategic management issues for small associations. This has been in development  for a while and will be launching in the next few months. 

Another comment that Wes quoted under strategic management issues was "coordination across the organization." This is especially important because in many associations the leadership team changes every year or so - and new officers are hungry to address strategic data management issues but are hampered by weaknesses in data management tools and lack of strategic guidance.

Reporting/querying – 11%

The fourth most important issue noted in the survey was Reporting/querying, accounting for 11% of responses. As Wes noted in his report, "your database is relatively useless if the data you have in it is difficult or impossible to extract. Reporting and querying are the tools we use to get that data, and the more difficult it is to query on or report from your database, the less value it has." Dmitri notes that "we still see a lot of people asking questions like "give us a list of your standard reports" when selecting a system. I think this is backwards, the first thing is to figure out key workflows/KPIs - and then figure out how well data management systems support them. (It might be through queries, reports, online screens, integration APIs, built-in automation etc.).

Where do we go from here?

As Wes Trochlil notes in his survey summary, "managing your association database is an ongoing challenge. One does not just “plug it in and forget it.” But he's also encouraged - as is our Chief Apricot - that associations are beginning to think more strategically about data management and how they can better capture and use this data to further their organization's mission.

To read the full article about the  "What's Plaguing Associations - 2011" survey visit Wes Trochlil's Effective Database Management (EDM) website.

Are your top data management/database challenges reflected in this survey?  If not, tell us what your organization is struggling with in terms of data management - in the comments below.


Photo credit: Auxesis' Flickr Photostream

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 06 September 2011 at 9:00 AM
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